Coronavirus Israel live: Health Ministry director says Defense Ministry should take on more in managing crisis – Israel News

Israel and the West Bank are dealing with a renewed outbreak of the coronavirus, leading to proposals and measures intended to curb its spread and mitigate the economic ramifications of the crisis by both the Israeli and the Palestinian authorities.

24,276 people in Israel have so far tested positive for the coronavirus; 319 people have died. 

In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 2,025 people tested positive; eight people have died. In the Gaza Strip, 72 people were diagnosed and one person has died. 

■ Coronavirus tracker: Live stats of cases and deaths

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LIVE UPDATES

8:45 A.M. Health Ministry director general: some ministry activities should fall under Defense Ministry, local authorities’ purview

In an interview with Kan Radio, Health Ministry Director-General Hezi Levi said that he would prefer that parts of the ministry’s activity would fall under Defense Ministry jurisdiction, “and that’s what we’re doing.” 

“It’s not just the Defense Ministry, it’s local authorities…As a military man, I’m aware that every organization needs to do what it has a relative advantage in. There’s no doubt that the activities on the ground themselves need to happen together with additional local authorities managing them, and everyone needs to fulfill their responsibility, and we’re busy with that as well.” 

MONDAY

10:19 P.M. Opposition blocks digital tracking law, vote delayed 

The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has backtracked on its plan to promote a temporary bill allowing digital tracking of coronavirus patients, after opposition lawmakers blocked the initiative.

According to sources familiar with the details, the opposition’s initiative was led by Eli Avidar of Yisrael Beiteinu.      

After the Knesset approved breaking up the bill to several clauses and voting on each clause separately, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Zvi Hauser backtracked and agreed with representatives from the opposition that a softer version of the bill will be voted on in its entirety on Monday. (Jonathan Lis) 

9:40 P.M. Justice Ministry cancels April fines levied on restaurants for violating COVID-19 restrictions

Fines levied on restaurants and coffee shops in the period from March 25 through April 25 for violating coronavirus restrictions will be canceled, the Justice Minister said on Monday.

“Due to legal doubt that arose whether the prohibition to open restaurants and coffee shops is a criminal prohibition,“ the fines are canceled, the Justice Ministry said. (Bar Peleg)

9:26 P.M. Israel extends aid for seniors through mid-August

The Knesset approved a bill Monday extending financial benefits for seniors above the age of 67 who were furloughed due to the coronavirus crisis. Seniors put on unpaid leave were alotted 4000 shekels a month, for March, April and May.

The bill extends the benefits through mid-August, after which the matter will be reexamined. (Jonathan Lis)

8:40 P.M. Universities to hold frontal exams this week, move to remote exams next week

Following pushback from universities, Higher Education Minister Zeev Elkin said he had granted the request of universities and colleges to administer final exams on campus as planned this week. From Sunday onwards, all exams will be held remotely.

Elkin said that the directive ordering universities to have students take their final exams from home would only go into effect over the weekend. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

7:59 P.M. Netanyahu announces 2-billion-shekel package for small, medium-sized businesses hit by coronavirus

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he and Finance Minister Israel Katz were earmarking an additional 2 billion shekels (about $580 million) to small and medium-sized businesses to help offset the economic damage caused by the coronavirus.

“I understand your pain, I hear your cries,” Netanyahu said. The 2 billion shekels is in addition to the 100 billion shekels already budgeted to aid those harmed by the economic shutdown during the crisis, most of which has yet to be distributed. (Noa Landau)

7:49 P.M. Over 400,000 back at work since lockdown’s end, but even more still getting jobless benefits

Some 401,000 Israelis have returned to their jobs since the end of the coronavirus lockdown, the National Insurance Institute reported on Monday. But more than 673,000 are still getting unemployment benefits.

Meanwhile, the Employment Service said that as of Monday 861,861 people were still registered with it, equal to 21.2% of the labor force. Of those, more than 70% were on unpaid leave and had not been laid off from their jobs.

The NII said that since the start of the coronavirus crisis, it had received 1.075 million applications for unemployment benefits. Of those 73,000, or 6.7%, were rejected because they didn’t meet eligibility requirements. Even as the lockdown in Israel began to ease after April 19, about 130,000 unemployment applications were filed. The figure doesn’t count people above the legal retirement age, who don’t qualify for jobless benefits ordinarily but due to the coronavirus have been receiving special grants.

The figures come a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yisrael Katz said the government would extend unemployment benefits until mid-August. The decision was made after estimates that benefits for some 262,000 Israelis were due to expire at the end of June.

On the other hand, applications for income support, which had grown during March and April, declined in May and June, the NII said. In March, at the start of the coronavirus crisis, 9,418 applications for income support had been filed. The number grew to 11,290 in April, but in May it fell to 6,385 and in June, up until the 24th of the month, it had reached 5,497. (Sivan Klingbail and Avi Waksman)

7:28 P.M. Israel confirms 521 new COVID-19 cases, bringing total to 24,276

The total number of coronavirus cases in Israel has risen to 24,276, the Health Ministry reported – an increase of 521 cases since Sunday evening. The death toll sits at 319. Israel currently has 6,768 active cases, with 24 patients on ventilators. 

The ministry added that 10,364 coronavirus tests were conducted on Sunday. (Haaretz)

7:02 P.M. Chaos prevails in Israeli academia as criteria for online final exams remains unclear

Final exams for college students, which were supposed to start this week, have been thrown into chaos after the government’s coronavirus cabinet decided on Monday that most exams should be administered at home rather than on campus.

While the decision did allow some exams to be exempted from the at-home rule, it has not yet set criteria for which exams qualify. The Council for Higher Education and the Health Ministry are supposed to set these criteria at some point in the future.

Adding to the confusion is that the decision will take effect only after Health Ministry Director General Hezi Levy signs the necessary regulations, and it’s not clear when he will do so. Until then, schools can hold finals on campus as planned, but they have no way of knowing how long that will be possible.

Ben-Gurion University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv University all said they will not administer online exams before Levi signs the directive. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)   

3:40 P.M. As cases rise, government decides to tighten restrictions

Israel’s coronavirus cabinet has decided to limit public gatherings amid fears of a second wave:

Up to 250 people will be allowed at concert halls and event venues, and up to 50 people will be allowed to attend circumcision ceremonies and funerals.

Starting July 10, weddings held indoors will be allowed to host 50 percent of the venue’s capacity, capped at 100 participants, with a maximum number of 250 attendees at outdoor venues. On July 31, the maximum number of attendees for indoor venues will be increased to 250.

University students will take exams online, while 30 percent of the workforce in the public sector will work from home. (Noa Landau)

2:00 P.M. Israel begins random antibody testing survey to determine scope of infection

After a delay of several weeks, and against the backdrop of expert criticism, random nationwide coronavirus antibody testing started on Monday in 191 communities in Israel, including 13 virus hot spots, as the government attempts to get a full picture of the outbreak.

Unlike swab tests, which are designed to diagnose patients currently infected, antibody testing should be able to show how far the virus has spread within the general population, whether or not those that have contracted it have developed symptoms.

The program will last several days, during which 75,000 tests will be carried out at health maintenance organization community clinics around the country. Designed by the Health Ministry, it is meant to be random in order to obtain a representative sample based on geographic location, size, socio-economic status and ethnic or religious background. (Ido Efrati)

>> Read the full report here

11:57 A.M. Coronavirus cases in Israel continue to rise

Coronavirus cases have risen to 23,989, according to the Health Ministry, while the number of deaths rose by one to 319. The number of active cases is currently 6,556, with 46 of those in serious condition. (Haaretz)

11:22 A.M. University leaders appeal to Health Ministry to let exams go ahead

University leaders sent a letter to Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, asking him to allow university exams to proceed as usual.

Due to the increase in cases, a meeting is due to take place today to dicuss cancelling them unless they can take place at home.

The letter argued that, given workplaces and recreational facilities are open, it would be logical for the government to allow exams to go ahead. They added that cancelling the exams would be harmful to students. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

9:46 A.M. Almost 100 new virus cases discovered in the West Bank

Ninety-seven new cases of the coronavirus have been detected in the West Bank, including 53 in the Hebron area and 27 in Nablus, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. This brings the total number of active cases in the West Bank to 1,701 and total diagnoses since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak to 2,025. (Jack Khoury)

8:17 A.M. West Bank woman dies of coronavirus

A woman in her forties from Hebron died from the coronavirus, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Eight people have now died of the virus in the West Bank. (Jack Khoury)

12:20 A.M. Daily new virus cases remain high

299 Israelis have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in the last day, according to data released by the Health Ministry, with 39 of those people in serious condition. The number of people who have died remains at 318. (Haaretz)

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